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  • Swedish - Soviet encounters over the Baltic

    Previously classified pictures show the Swedish Viggen pilots daring photo war against Soviet aircraft during the Cold War. The pilots own pictures, taken with ordinary hand cameras, showing how they flew just meters away from Soviet aircraft over the Baltic Sea.

    To the horror of many Swedes, Soviet aircraft trained for attack missions over the Baltic sea during the Cold War. What many did not know was that the exercises were not a preparation for the invasion of Sweden but rather exercises against mock American targets.

    When Soviet bombers exercised over the Baltic Sea the Swedish Air Force kept on their toes. The Swedish incident flights were alerted and went up to identify the foreign aircraft.

    With hand cameras, the pilots were sent up to photograph the aircraft so that the Soviet units could be identified and tracked. Like many other Swedes many of the pilots were probably unaware of the purpose of the Soviet exercises.

    The images captured by the pilots were then used together with the FRA's signals intelligence and radar images by the Swedish military intelligence to understand the Soviet units intentions in the Baltic region.
    http://imgur.com/a/UkBV3

    The pilots' photographs from their missions over the Baltic sea testify to close encounters with the Soviet aircrafts. How close?

    - They are often just separated by a few meters. It's almost so close that they could hit each other, says Thomas Magnuson publisher and author of the book "Swedish air force during the Cold War."

    The somewhat conspiratorially laid might perhaps think that the camera used by the pilots was equipped with a zoom lens. On the contrary, says Thomas Magnuson. Ordinary had cameras at the time took wide angle images and objects can instead appear as they are further away than what they actually were when the image was taken.

    FRA had, through signals intelligence, a clear picture of what the Soviet Union did in the Baltic Sea area, but most of it was kept secret. This meant that the pilots did not know what they were getting themselves into when they met the Soviet aircraft in the air.

    - The Swedish pilots were convinced that it was the exercises to simulate the attack on Sweden. They had not heard the radio traffic FRA had intercepted. The FRA kept that a secret.
    http://imgur.com/a/vXjHO

    Aft cannon of a TU-22

    When the Soviet aircraft were "courted" by the Swedish Viggen pilots the pattern was clear. Most of the time the Swedish pilots flew in under the Soviet aircraft.

    - They fly so close, when there is something interesting under the aircraft. But under the aircraft was often where the engines and especially armament could be found, says Thomas Magnuson.

    - They had the habit of flying in under and as close as one dared. For a while the Swedish Air Force handed out the diplomas to the pilots who flew really close and photographed something truly interesting.

    Among Viggen pilots it gave a certain status to dare and fly as close as possible to the Soviet aircraft.

    - Viggen pilots, they were very skilled and cultivated a certain macho culture and they made it into a competition. Then people realized that you have to put the brakes on it down and they stopped issuing such diplomas.
    http://imgur.com/a/fTjzo

    The Swedish pilots had one task, they were there to document and identify the Soviet aircraft. The Soviet pilots were on completely different missions. They were there to practice air strikes against US aircraft carriers and that's what they did.

    While Swedish pilots had more freedom when they flew were Soviet pilots were more strictly controlled. This meant that the photographing of the aircraft was often relatively painless, even though it meant a risk for the pilots to fly as close as they did.

    - It was reckless. But the Russians had orders not to take evasive maneuvers when the Swedes came. They would lie still and had almost always had the aft guns turned off, says Thomas Magnuson.
    http://imgur.com/a/JY80i

    The images from the Swedish pilots also reflects the social changes in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. During the 1980s, and especially after 1985, when Gorbachev led the Soviet Union the condition of the Soviet aircraft changed.

    In the picture above, which is from the later years of the Cold War there is visible rust and dirt on the aircraft, which testified to deteriorating conditions in the Soviet Air Force - and the society at large.

    - The deterioration was clearly visible. The Soviet aircraft stood outdoors, so the lack of maintenance quickly became evident. From when Gorbachev came to power, one can clearly see how the maintenance is getting worse and worse almost by the month when looking at the pictures. Everything becomes more dirty and rusty, says Thomas Magnuson.
    http://imgur.com/a/wqYb2

    The Soviet pilots were not overly fond of the Swedes photographing. Not only because it meant that Sweden, that was a Western state, would have information about their air force, but also for personal reasons. The Russian pilots were anxious not to appear on the Swedish pilots photos.

    - When the Swedes flew close they concealed their faces. They did not want to be photographed. Apparently they were uncomfortable with the West having photos of their faces, Magnusson said.

    The pilots from the East also had their own cameras that they photographed the Swedes with. Pictures that clearly show how close the Swedish Viggen pilots actually flew.
    http://imgur.com/a/gRg4E

    http://imgur.com/a/XGeiz

    http://imgur.com/a/S7ZBl

    Images and text translated from: http://www.svd.se/unika-bilder-vigge...rig-med-sovjet

  • #2
    In the summer of 1985 a Soviet Su-15 crashed in international waters in the Baltic Sea off the Liepaja in Latvia. Now, twenty-five years after the tragic event, can Viggen pilot Göran Larsson tell you what really happened.

    The cold war had moments when it got hotter. The incidents along the border between East and West were numerous. Not least in the Baltic Sea, the water that in Communist propaganda was called the sea of ​​peace. For the non-aligned Sweden, with its location in the middle between the blocks, it was required to be active; partly to guard their neutrality, and to gather information.

    Sunday, July 7, 1985 the South Military Command sent an order to the reconnaissance division who was on stand-by, "Martin Red" at F13 in Norrköping.
    Naval forces of the Warsaw Pact conducted an exercise in the eastern Baltic Sea and the division was assigned to keep an eye on them.

    For the times it was a relatively routine mission. But the mission, numbered "Ftg 417" would be one of the more dramatic.
    "Martin Red 03" was a SH 37, a SAAB 37 Viggen version specialized for maritime surveillance.
    The aircraft took off from its home base in Norrköping with Captain Göran Larsson as the pilot. After about 35 minutes Larsson got contact with the target ships exercising just outside Soviet territorial waters.
    - The Russians met me immediately. A pair of Su-15 Flagon F stood for the welcome. I concentrated on identifying vessels in the north end of the "cake", reconnaissance jargon for a group of ships. It was spread out with a couple kilometers separating the ships. It forced me to twist and turn a bit. One Russian kept next to me and the other held a bit awaiting away, says Larsson.
    Meetings with foreign powers aircraft over the Baltic Sea was not unusual. But to have them in close in tow could be both stressful and disruptive when at the same time as you were supposed to conduct a reconnaissance mission where you had to focus on data collection and photography. Larsson conducted a number of maneuvers, but the Russian showed no tendency to want to leave his place at the Swede's wingtip.
    Larsson got up hand camera and photographed his companion - a Flagon F with the individual label "Yellow 36".

    The Warsaw Pact fleet exercise covered a large number of vessels scattered over a wide area. To document all of them at one same flight proved difficult, so Larsson decided to divide the work in two flights. He returned to home base to refuel.
    Refueling went quickly and efficiently. Larsson's second reconnaissance flight started on the late afternoon. The aircraft was still "Martin Red 03", unarmed and equipped
    with a surveillance camera of the type SKA 24 on a body mount.

    - The second session was radio silent because I did not have any company. The other side listened to our radio traffic and could thereby know when we were coming. After Ark island I dropped to 150 meters. I had neither radio or radar turned on at the time. I crossed Gotland at the height of Slite and just outside the Swedish territorial waters I turned on a straight easterly course.
    The route then followed Latvia and Lithuanian coasts to the south and southwest.
    Larsson then recieved information from Command and Control about Russian interceptors having taken off from Vainode in Latvia.
    Shortly before 18 o'clock Göran Larsson sent of a so-called radar blast against the naval base in Liepaja.
    He then turned northwards to complete his documentation of the ships in the "cake".
    Radio communication with the command central was impossible because the altitude was too low and the distance is large. Therefore, as a routine, Swedish fighters at high altitude near of Gotland were deployed. They acted as a relay station during missions like this.
    It was from them Larsson got the warning: "interceptors from northeast, distance 50 kilometers." about three minutes later, the Soviet aircraft arrived.
    The 54th fighter regiment used the same two Su-15s that had been courting Larsson earlier during the day, but now it was their roles were reversed.
    - It was the second air craft in the pair who came close and joined me.
    We turned around a lot, but then I needed space to work. I thought that he ought to give up and that there had been enough dancing, said Larsson.

    To understand what now came unfold it might be time for a short introduction of the participants. Viggen was a potent and maneuverable military aircraft at the time. The Maritime surveillance version SH 37 was perfect for a mission like this. Adding to that the plane was in the hands of a very experienced and skilled pilot. Larsson knew where he had his machine and how he could take maximum advantage of its performance.
    The Su-15 Flagon F was a twin engine "interceptor" primarily for designed to go up against high-flying bombers. The Flagon was by no means harmless in other environments, but its performance was optimized for something completely different then dogfighting at low altitude.
    In contacts with the Su-15 over the Baltic Sea the Swedish Air Force observed that the Flagon F routinely were equipped with a full weapons load. This consisted of two radar missiles, two IR missiles and sometimes even capsules with automatic cannons under the body.
    Larsson speaks about a lot of twisting and turning at low altitude, loops and other maneuvers. Russian kept with him all the time at a distance of about 50 meters. Finally, the Swede decided to get rid of his with his troublesome companion.
    - I conducted a half-roll [http://imgur.com/a/r2fPu] at a hight of about 500 meters. The speed was 550-700 km/h and G-load was high. As Larsson completed the maneuver leveling out at about 100 meters, he saw in the rear-view mirrors how the Russian pilot, instead of realizing the limitations of his machine, followed the Swede in the half-roll. Unable to save his aircraft he continued towards the water.
    - I saw him fly with a high nose, stalled. He hit the 200 meters behind me. I did not see any ejection.
    The water splash was followed by an explosion and a huge fireball. Four live missiles probably enhanced the effect. The tragedy was a fact.
    Larsson decided to abort the mission and that as quickly as possible to return to base. He turned to a northwesterly course and accelerated to full speed and combat controll of his location.
    - When I headed towards the island of Gotland, I saw the second Su-15 at about five kilometers. He swung in behind mid. I lit the afterburner and increased the speed to Mach 1.1, about 1350 kilometers per hour.

    - I tried to remain at an altitude of 50 meters, but it became more difficult the more the speed increased. Over Mach 1 the aircrofted was behaving anxiously due to the low altitude. When my radar detector indicated that Russian had missiles locked on me, I turned off the afterburner. I tried to turn and look back, but was unable to due of the high speed.
    The fighter pair acting as relay station steered towards the southeast to meet their colleague and mark their presence. The Russian broke off pursuit after a minute and returned to the crash site.

    It is not difficult to understand that Larsson was concerned about the consequences of his involvement in the incident.
    Already during the return flight to home base he pondered over how he would word the report. It was important not to be too generous with details of how it all happened.
    Routinely, he wrote a so-called IFL, "Observance of Foreign Air Vehicle".
    Staff from the intelligence department interviewed him. Larsson was also called to the commander over the first air squadron in Gothenburg To explain the course of events.
    Although some maneuvering were common when encountering foreign aircraftt, the official directives were that such should be avoided.
    In order not to reveal the characteristics of the flight, a more "neutral" version of incident was given in the report and interviews.

    The Radar Intelligence Services weekly report sates that the remaining Su-15 stayed for about 40 minutes in the accident area before it returned to Vainode. The Warsaw Pact air and naval units kept searching during the evening and the following two days.
    During the following week the Soviet fighter regiments along the Baltic coast were sent up against several foreign flights, but at no time did they contact make contact. It seemed as if they deliberately remained at over 30 kilometers. The air base in Vainode did not resume regular flight operations until Friday, July 12.
    Larssons own images of the Su-15 "Yellow 36"
    http://imgur.com/a/GBRrY
    Map of the incident: http://imgur.com/a/W1Q9g

    Translated from: http://www.flygtorget.se/illustratio...0110093819.pdf

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    • #3
      And these days we hear the same BS too, about how the Russian air force is conducting mock bombings and nuke strikes of Sweden.
      When in fact not even the Soviet air force bothered with such back in the day.

      But that didn't stop a threat from being misrepresented both then and now.

      Learn from history, or be fooled again.

      Comment


      • #4
        The Soviet Su-15 pilot in Sniffit's story was captain S. Zhigulyov of the 54th Guards Fighter Regiment, flying out of Vainode, Latvian SSR.

        He was declared MIA and nothing was found until 1995 when remains of his flight jacket were discovered on a beach somewhere in the Baltics (confirmed to be his by insignia).

        The Soviets greatly respected Swedish pilots back then and thought that the SAAB Viggen was a remarkable machine. The Su-15 was a pure-bred interceptor definitely not designed for low-sniffing and hard maneuvering, clearly the Swedes were at an advantage there. When the Su-27 showed up shortly afterwards, things looked a wee bit different...

        Comment


        • #5
          flamming_python please keep the politics out of this thread.

          However if you have any interesting stories fitting the topic, please share them.

          Originally posted by moosefoot View Post
          The Soviet Su-15 pilot in Sniffit's story was captain S. Zhigulyov of the 54th Guards Fighter Regiment, flying out of Vainode, Latvian SSR.

          He was declared MIA and nothing was found until 1995 when remains of his flight jacket were discovered on a beach somewhere in the Baltics (confirmed to be his by insignia).
          Thank you for providing this additional info, really interesting.

          Rest in peace Captain S. Zhigulyov.

          Comment


          • #6
            After having read up on it I must say the Viggen was an amazing aircraft, way ahead of its time, even if it suffered from severe delays and cost overruns.
            But producing a fighter that was on par and in some ways superior to comparable US aircraft in the 70s was amazing.

            Probably the most underrated cold war jet fighter, I wonder why it never had any export success.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by JCR View Post
              Probably the most underrated cold war jet fighter, I wonder why it never had any export success.
              Because even though it was offered to Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium at a very attractive price and with great offsets and local production opportunities the F16 won out because of political concideration. When it came to Austria, it wasn't bought because it was deemed to expensive.

              India had lengthy plans to buy it, but the americans refused to give export permission for the engine.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by JCR View Post
                After having read up on it I must say the Viggen was an amazing aircraft, way ahead of its time, even if it suffered from severe delays and cost overruns.
                But producing a fighter that was on par and in some ways superior to comparable US aircraft in the 70s was amazing.

                Probably the most underrated cold war jet fighter, I wonder why it never had any export success.
                Yes even just looking at it in those photos it strikes one as being ahead of its time.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The SAAB Viggen was a fascinating aircraft, for sure. It was rather short-legged though, and very much tailored for Swedish requirements, which might explain why it didn't sell like the Draken did before it or the Gripen after it. Oh, that and the export restrictions Sniffit mentioned obviously, imposed by the US since it had a big bunch of American components.

                  To add some more to the Su-15 story I read somebody's anecdote regarding the incident, from the other side of the curtain as it were:
                  Реальные факты - в 1985г при выполнении в/боя в нейтральных водах пары Виггенов на пару Су-15ТМ погиб к-н Жигулев (вошел в воду). Шведы создали такую ситуацию - по докладу ведущего... В Сав-ке после полетов, бани с ужином зашел разговор об этом ... нашли участника события говорили долго... они искренне жалели о случившемся... да и Вигген лучше был Су-15, да и шведы летали не плохо и что мы их имели потом после получения Су-27... Из всех иностранных летчиков с которыми я общался шведов выделяю в лучшую сторону - простые. веселые, искренние-на нас похожи... потом я этого шведа прокатил на Су-27 он был в восторге от самолета и конечно от летчика. В 1995 году прибалты на берегу обнаружили остатки кожаной куртки с пистолетом... по номеру ПМа поняли что это Жигулев - до этого считался безвести пропавший...
                  Though memory might be failing him since it's just an anecdote, as there was only one SH 37.

                  aaaand edit: One more thing, I'm planning to see a Viggen in action on Friday and Saturday. I think it's the only one still flying in the world.
                  Last edited by moosefoot; 21-08-2016, 12:32 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A pair consisting of SAAB 37 Viggen took off from F15 Söderhamn, at 13:06 October 16, 1996, to conduct a reconnaissance exercise over the Baltic Sea against a Russian naval convoy to identify the cruiser Pjotr Velikij.

                    The pair climbed to an altitude of 8250m flying via Tierp - Gotska Sandön - Östergarn before dropping to a lower altitude and heading towards the convoy's estimated location. During the descent the lead aircraft made radar contact and changed to a West South West course to line up with the Russian convoy. After passing some smaller vessels the lead radioed that he probably had the cruiser in front of him and turned to South West with his wingman about 300m behind to the right.

                    The pair made eye contact with Pjotr Velikij at a distance of 5 km and began the passage from the aft of the cruiser, a few hundred meters to port of the ship and at an altitude of 200 m. At a distance of approximately 1km from the cruiser the lead pilot confirmed that this was the target ship and immediately thereafter that he had discovered an aircraft type Be 12 "Mail" at the same height, fore of the ship also on the port side. He announced his intention to pass under this aircraft and made a downward right turn to pass under and behind the Be 12. The wingman switched from above right to above left of the lead aircraft and when he had completed the pass over the lead aircraft and regained eye contact with him, he saw how it hit the water during a right bank with a strong water splash at 13:45, about 200 m fore and 200 m to the port of the cruiser who was then to about 120 km SE of Gotland.

                    The wingman immediately pulled up to a higher altitude and radioed fighter control that an accident occurred. He returned to the crash site and did some photo passages without seeing any parachute or lifeboat near the oil slick formed on the site of the accident. He aborted and returned to base.
                    SAR helicopters were dispatched from Visby and Ronneby, a Swedish coastguard vessel as well as Russian and Latvian ships and helicopters were used in the search for the pilot.
                    Aircraft parts, flight helmet, and what was assumed to be the remains of the pilot were recovered during the afternoon.
                    Translated and compiled from the official Swedish accident report: http://www.svfplhist.com/37/37908.pdf

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by moosefoot View Post
                      The SAAB Viggen was a fascinating aircraft, for sure. It was rather short-legged though, and very much tailored for Swedish requirements, which might explain why it didn't sell like the Draken did before it or the Gripen after it. Oh, that and the export restrictions Sniffit mentioned obviously, imposed by the US since it had a big bunch of American components.

                      To add some more to the Su-15 story I read somebody's anecdote regarding the incident, from the other side of the curtain as it were:


                      Though memory might be failing him since it's just an anecdote, as there was only one SH 37.

                      aaaand edit: One more thing, I'm planning to see a Viggen in action on Friday and Saturday. I think it's the only one still flying in the world.
                      Would you mind translate it for the rest of us. Would be great reading some stories from the other side as well

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by moosefoot View Post
                        aaaand edit: One more thing, I'm planning to see a Viggen in action on Friday and Saturday. I think it's the only one still flying in the world.


                        Bit late, but I took a photo with my shitty pocketcam and it's all yummy-yummy. The sound of that oversized jet doesn't leave anyone disappointed. Clocking in at a comfortable Mach 2.0 this baby is by far the fastest civil-registered aircraft in Sweden, SE-DXN.

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                        • #13
                          I was in high school, when I saw pics of Viggen. I think it was a sexy aircraft then and still looks very sexy now.

                          I saw this in U tube, and it is befitting to admire these planes flybys. See attached. ( Tunnan, Draken, Viggen & Gripen)

                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U64fziiZtFE
                          Last edited by peping; 01-11-2016, 07:18 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Only one Swedish jet matters and thats The Draken...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I wonder how many people when they started to see this. Was thinking this was some sort of counter intell thing run by the Red Air force OR the USSR is going down!


                              The images from the Swedish pilots also reflects the social changes in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. During the 1980s, and especially after 1985, when Gorbachev led the Soviet Union the condition of the Soviet aircraft changed.

                              In the picture above, which is from the later years of the Cold War there is visible rust and dirt on the aircraft, which testified to deteriorating conditions in the Soviet Air Force - and the society at large.

                              - The deterioration was clearly visible. The Soviet aircraft stood outdoors, so the lack of maintenance quickly became evident. From when Gorbachev came to power, one can clearly see how the maintenance is getting worse and worse almost by the month when looking at the pictures. Everything becomes more dirty and rusty, says Thomas Magnuson.

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